A 1965 educational film explains.

As in any city, the story of Detroit can be told through its roads. In 1965, an educational film illustrated it all in 15 minutes.

Explained in Detroit’s Pattern of Growth, made by Robert Goodman and Gordon Draper of Wayne State University, the city’s layout was informed by French, British, and American rule and its transformation from a fur trading post to the center of the automotive world.

Judge Augustus Woodward’s original plan for the city after a devastating fire in 1805, as illustrated in the film.

Using minimalist illustrations, the film shows the layers of different visions for the city overlapping though new paths, streets, and eventually, freeways.

With a good 250 years of various plans colliding, there’s a lot to take in. But to keep it short, the film concludes, the city’s paths can be best understood as products of four distinct periods:

The downtown area, which is a small part of Judge Woodward’s plan; the major spoke streets whose routes were based on old Indian trails; streets at right angles to the shoreline along old French farm boundaries and their perpendicular cross streets; and finally, the north-south-east-west streets of the grid system. Even the recent freeways have conformed to the historic routes which have formed the basic patterns of the city of Detroit.

H/T: Detroit Metro Times

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. a photo of a Metro PCS store in Washington, D.C.
    Equity

    What D.C.’s Go-Go Showdown Reveals About Gentrification

    A neighborhood debate over music swiftly became something bigger, and louder: a cry for self-determination from a community that is struggling to be heard.

  2. Equity

    The Hidden Horror of Hudson Yards Is How It Was Financed

    Manhattan’s new luxury mega-project was partially bankrolled by an investor visa program called EB-5, which was meant to help poverty-stricken areas.

  3. The facade of a casino in Atlantic City.
    Photos

    Photographing the Trumpian Urbanism of Atlantic City

    Brian Rose’s new book uses the deeply troubled New Jersey city as a window into how a developer-turned-president operates.

  4. a photo of San Francisco tourists posing before the city's iconic skyline.
    Life

    Cities Don’t Have Souls. Why Do We Battle For Them?

    What do we mean when we say that the “soul of the city” is under threat? Often, it’s really about politics, nostalgia, and the fear of community change.

  5. A new map of neighborhood change in U.S. metros shows where displacement is the main problem, and where economic decline persists.
    Equity

    From Gentrification to Decline: How Neighborhoods Really Change

    A new report and accompanying map finds extreme gentrification in a few cities, but the dominant trend—particularly in the suburbs—is the concentration of low-income population.